A consumer complains he can’t afford increased overdraft charges


We look at Ben’s complaint after his bank changed the way they were applying charges to his overdraft. 

What happened

Ben’s bank changed the way it was applying charges to his overdraft. This meant he ended up paying much more to service his debt. It was clear that Ben had a very low income and the change was making his financial situation worse. 

His bank had told him about the change to the charges in advance – but because of his circumstances he wasn’t able to pay off his overdraft. He felt he’d been forced to accept a change that made him worse off. Ben’s bank hadn’t known his full financial situation when it made the change. 

What we said 

We looked at the available evidence. We thought the nature of the change wasn’t something Ben would have foreseen when he first agreed his overdraft. And as his situation meant he couldn’t have found a way to clear his overdraft before the change took effect, we thought it fair and reasonable for his bank to refund the fees he’d been charged since the change, and to stop future changes. 

After reviewing Ben’s situation, the bank gave him notice under the terms and conditions, closed the account and recorded a default. They said the overdraft was clearly unaffordable for Ben and it was unlikely he’d be able to pay back what he owed them over a reasonable period of time. Ben was unhappy with this. He didn’t want his credit file affected. 

But we thought the bank’s actions were appropriate and proportionate. We didn’t think they should have to provide Ben with an overdraft free of charge. We agreed it was unlikely he could pay back what he’d borrowed even after the charges had been refunded. Under the terms, the bank could always revoke the account and ask Ben to repay what he owed.